All of the major gluten free sites yesterday were all excited because Justin Bieber posted yesterday about his newfound “gluten allergy”. For me, I just rolled my eyes and said, “who cares?”
Let me explain.
I do not care about what most of the world eats. Everyone should eat what makes them healthy and keeps their body running in the best shape it can. Want to eat a ton of protein to build big muscles, great! Want to eat a ton of carbohydrates or no carbohydrates, awesome! Eat vegan, gluten free, macrobiotic foods if you like. Have at it and enjoy!
With all of that being said, Saturday on twitter, Justin Bieber announced that he was going gluten free due to a gluten allergy and posted a picture with an Omission beer. All of the major gluten free sites were all over this post and fawning over another celebrity embracing the gluten free lifestyle. My first two thoughts were – he’s a little late to be jumping on this gluten free bandwagon and who cares.
I had two initial thoughts about his post. A gluten allergy is non existent. A wheat allergy is something else and backed up by science. Omission beer would not be considered “celiac safe” nor would it be safe for those with a “gluten allergy”.
But beyond those two initial thoughts, I have thought more and more about this. First, Bieber doesn’t have celiac, if he did, he would have said it and not called it a “gluten allergy”. Second, Bieber isn’t known for his altruistic leanings, so the idea that he would advocate on behalf of the celiac community is questionable. Third, I really think it was an advertisement for Omission Beer rather than an honest confession about a health issue.
For me, I think his post has done no good. It got a lot of advertising out for Omission Beer, which is great for them. But it did nothing for our community.
Let’s turn our thoughts to Kristen Bell who recently announced she was going gluten free because she carries the genetic markers for celiac disease. It is unclear from the article if she’s actually been tested for celiac disease or not, but she goes on to explain her elimination diet in the article. She also talks about going gluten free to support her husband who has rheumatoid arthritis. Note that her husband has had this disease for a long time, only when she found celiac genetic markers did she decide to change her diet! (Snarky, I know.)
Again, I don’t care what Kristen Bell decides to eat – but the idea that she says that because she carries the genetic markers, she has celiac disease. In the article she says, ” Kristen Bell received some shocking health news from her doctor earlier this year. “I woke up two months ago with celiac,” she tells Women’s Health. “I don’t know what the f**k is going on.” If you read the next paragraph, she talks about carrying the genetic markers not actually having the disease.
Over 40% of the population carry the genetic markers for celiac disease, but only about 0.9% to 1% of the population actually develop celiac disease. To put some real numbers behind this, the current US population is about 320 million people. That means that about 128 million people carry the genetic markers for celiac. Only about 3.2 million people will actually develop the disease. If all 128 million people who carry celiac genetic markers went gluten free, those of us with celiac disease would have a much easier time finding gluten free foods to eat!
I just worry that these celebrities are leading to misinformation and misunderstanding about the celiac community. Not that it matters, because there is plenty of misinformation without these celebrities. There is lots and lots of misinformation within the dedicated celiac groups as well. Heck on occasion, I might even mistakenly provide misinformation, but I try really hard not to. 🙂
I just know that as a celiac community, we have to keep eating gluten free, educate those that care, participate in clinical research, and advocate for a cure to this disease. That’s the best we can do.